Professor receives NEA grant to bridge Indian dance techniques

Professor receives NEA grant to bridge Indian dance techniques
Friday, January 13, 2023

Kaustavi Sarkar, assistant professor of dance, has received a $10,000 “Grant for Arts Projects — Dance” from the National Endowment for the Arts” for the project, “ShilpaNatyam: Creating a New Vocabulary in Indian Dance,” in partnership with New York-based choreographer Maya Kulkarni.

"Shilpa-Natanam" means mobilizing visual art. This is a creative process developed by Kulkarni over the past decade in which she draws inspiration from painting, sculpture, literature and aesthetics to create texts embedded within the dramatic South Asian tradition of Abhinaya or expressive dancing.

For this project, Sarkar and Kulkarni will work together to build bridges and integrate elements of two very distinct Indian dance techniques, Odissi from Eastern India, and Bharatnatyam from Southern India. Combining elements from each prominent dance form will create a new choreographic language that will spark conversations and prompt participants and audiences to “consider the premise and context of intercultural artistic creation towards a broader discourse on cultural difference.”

Kulkarni will travel to Charlotte for two 10-day residencies during the spring and fall 2023 semesters. During these residencies, she will host community and University-based masterclasses, performances, public discussions and several symposia. The second part of the project is to create an evening-length performance consisting of four pieces: two solos and two ensemble works. Performances will take place across the U.S. and India in summer 2024. 

Sarkar, an Odissi dancer/choreographer, first met Kulkarni, a Bharatnatyam dancer/choreographer, in 2020 over Zoom while seeking feedback for a project she was working on with another choreographer, Rohini Dandavate. They began working together as choreographers on the project, “Tridha: Three Parables," which was performed for the 2021 Faculty Dance Concert at UNC Charlotte.

Their most current collaboration is "Impossible Romance," a solo work that Sarkar first danced in December 2022 in New Jersey. It will become part of the longer program in development and will be performed at the 2023 Faculty Dance Concert, Jan. 27-28.